"It's the larger implications for our culture that concern me the most," Lewinsky writes.
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Monica Lewinsky has weighed in on Johnny Depp's highly publicized defamation trial against Amber Heard and the social media firestorm surrounding it — and her verdict is a disheartening one. No matter who prevails in court, Lewinsky says, "we are guilty."

In an op-ed published Tuesday, the activist, TV personality, and Vanity Fair contributing editor writes that she initially followed the trial in "bits and bytes," as she feared prolonged viewing might be triggering. ("Don't know what I'm talking about? Google: 1998.")

But as the trial progressed in Fairfax County, Va., Lewinsky watched as clips and memes about the trial seeped into social media, making public consumption of the legal proceedings "biased, curated, and cursory." The trial is not seen as "tragic or pathetic," Lewinsky laments, but "as a pure car wreck: accessible, tawdry, and immediately gratifying."

"We dispense with critical thinking and substitute the cheap thrill," she writes. "Such scattershot consumption hasn't allowed for real comprehension. Instead, we experience only apprehension, knee-jerk outrage, and titillation. It's like going to the opera and reading a couple of translated supertitles but not understanding Italian. And despite whatever else this is, it is a soap opera."

Monica Lewinsky
Monica Lewinsky
| Credit: Nathan Congleton/NBC/Getty

Depp is suing Heard, his ex-wife, for $50 million over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which she detailed her experiences as a domestic violence survivor and advocated for change for victims. Though Heard did not mention Depp by name in the op-ed, his lawyers have argued that references to him, and Heard's previous abuse allegations, are clear. Heard filed a $100 million countersuit, accusing Depp and his legal team of defaming her by orchestrating a smear campaign to paint her as a liar.

After a six-week trial, Depp and Heard's legal team presented closing arguments last Friday. Jury deliberations are currently underway.

Amid the "celebrity circus," Lewinsky is concerned about the larger implications for our culture.

"This legal spectacle would be sad enough if it just impacted the personal lives of Depp, Heard, and their loved ones," she writes. "It would be sad enough even if we just considered how it has impacted domestic violence survivors or those who have sought strength in the #MeToo movement. However, it's the larger implications for our culture that concern me the most: the ways we have stoked the flames of misogyny and, separately, the celebrity circus."

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard
Johnny Depp; Amber Heard in court during defamation trial
| Credit: STEVE HELBER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images (2)

In the end, Lewinsky says we "devalue our dignity and humanity" by co-opting the trial "for our own purposes" on social media. "I'm certainly not here to tell you not to watch the verdict or not to have an opinion. But what is too much? What is defined as 'too far'?" she posits.

"As we have watched this story unfold, what does our opinion entitle us to?" she continues. "Does it entitle us to say whom we 'believe'? To restate the cherry-picked facts we've glommed on to that have led us, as virtual jurors, to 'just feel it in our bones'?"

Most importantly, Lewinsky asks, "Does it entitle us to be cruel?"

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